May 4, 2022

Second "Knowledge for Tomorrow" workshop: Young researchers discuss media and conflict in Abidjan

More than 30 young researchers in the field of media and communication studies from Francophone West and Central Africa presented their research projects in Abidjan from 27-29 April 2022. The hybrid workshop entitled "Défis actuels du Développement des Médias dans les Zones de Conflits (Current Challenges of Media Development in Conflict Zones)" is a cooperation between the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique (CNRST) in Burkina Faso and our graduate school MEDAS 21.

 

At the University Félix Houphouet-Boigny de Cocody, Abidjan, panelists and doctoral students from Burkina Faso, Brasil, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Benin, Cameroon, Germany, Senegal, Switzerland, the Central African Republic, Belgium, England and the Netherlands discussed current foci of researching media’s roles in crisis situations, ranging from terrorism in the Sahel to the mediatisation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 40 presenters and audience members participated via Zoom. The contributions illustrated different types of conflict from community-level to international and discussed to what extent journalists’ roles include the promotion of peace. “The bibliographies lack what African researchers say about conflict”, highlighted Senegalese journalist, researcher and activist Eugénie Rokhaya Aw N'diaye, stressing the relevance of the transnational exchange.

 

The workshop in Abidjan is part of an initiative by Viviane Schönbächler and Roja Zaitoonie, PhD students at MEDAS 21, in collaboration with partners from the CNRST in Ouagadougou, led by Dr Lassané Yaméogo, with the aim of bringing together young scientists from Francophone and Anglophone Africa. The workshop was funded by the VW Foundation within the framework of the Knowledge for Tomorrow funding line. From 23-25 March, young Anglophone researchers had already met for a similar workshop in Nairobi. At a follow-up meeting in the summer, the Anglophone and Francophone researchers will meet online and discuss possibilities for further exchange.

A recording of the inaugural lecture (French) by Prof. Barbara Thomaß (MEDAS21, Ruhr-University Bochum), Dr Eugénie Aw-Ndiaye (YALI/CESTI, Sénégal), Dr Emma Heywood (Sheffield University) can be found here.

 

Below, you'll find the re-recording of the keynote on Terrorism and Insecurity in the Sahel and Burkina Faso (French) by Mahamadou Savadogo, researcher at CERADD Gaston Berger University (Sénégal) and University Joseph-Ki-Zerbo (Burkina Faso).

 

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April 23, 2022

„Knowledge for Tomorrow“ organise le deuxième atelier doctoral sur les médias et conflits à Abidjan du 27 au 29 avril 2022

„Knowledge for Tomorrow“ organise le deuxième atelier doctoral sur les médias et conflits à Abidjan du 27 au 29 avril 2022

 

Une conférence internationale réunissant la jeune recherche africaine en sciences de l'information et de la communication se penche du 27 au 29 avril sur les défis actuels du développement des médias dans les zones de conflits en Afrique.

 

L'actualité est venue rappeler le rôle ambivalent des médias en période de conflits, à la fois facteurs d'escalade des antagonismes (Gilboa, 2009) ou d'apaisement des tensions (Galtung, 2003; Hoffmann et Hawkins, 2015...). La recherche se focalise donc sur les les conditions qui peuvent renforcer leur rôle constructif (Maweu et Mare, 2021) et leurs défis spécifiques (Orgeret et Tayeebwa, 2016).

 

Après une première escale à Nairobi du 23 au 25 mars dernier, la conférence d'Abidjan s'intéresse à l'Afrique francophone du 27 au 29 avril. Une trentaine de panélistes, doctorant·e·s et chercheur·e·s en début de carrière, principalement africain·e·s, viendront apporter des éclairages sur leur recherche au Bénin, au Burkina Faso, au Cameroun, en Centrafrique, en Côte d'Ivoire, au Mali, au Sénégal... ou depuis leurs centres de recherche en Belgique, en France, au Québec ou au Pays-Bas...

 

Un projet conjoint du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique (CNRST) au Burkina Faso et de l’école doctorale #Medas21 basé à l'université de Dortmund en Allemagne.

 

Le programme provisoire est disponible ici.

 

La participation est gratuite mais une inscription préalable est indispensable à l'adresse https://forms.gle/SX8SYzqVmLnGwkWUA

 

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The second „Knowledge for Tomorrow“-Workshop on media and conflict will take place in Abidjan from 27-29 April 2022

 

An international conference bringing together young African scholars in information and communication sciences will focus on the current challenges of media development in conflict zones in Africa from 27 to 29 April.

 

Current events have reminded us of the ambivalent role of the media in times of conflict, both as a factor in escalating antagonisms (Gilboa, 2009) and in easing tensions (Galtung, 2003; Hoffmann and Hawkins, 2015...). The research therefore focuses on the conditions that can enhance their constructive role (Maweu and Mare, 2021) and their specific challenges (Orgeret and Tayeebwa, 2016).

 

After a first stop in Nairobi from 23 to 25 March, the Abidjan conference will focus on Francophone Africa from 27 to 29 April. Some thirty panellists, doctoral students and researchers in the early stages of their careers, mainly from Africa, will come to shed light on their research in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, etc., or from their research centres in Belgium, France, Quebec or the Netherlands...

 

A joint project of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique (CNRST) in Burkina Faso and the #Medas21 graduate school based at the University of Dortmund in Germany.

 

The provisional programme is available here.

 

Participation is free of charge but prior registration is required at https://forms.gle/SX8SYzqVmLnGwkWUA

 

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April 7, 2022

"Knowledge for tomorrow" kick-off: Nairobi workshop brought together 40 scholars from Africa and Europe

MEDAS 21 and the School of Communication at Daystar University in Kenya have jointly organized a 3-day workshop that took place from 23-25 March 2022 in Nairobi.

 

Themed “Current Challenges in Media Development”, it attracted around 40 scholars from nine African and European countries who came together to discuss various topics in the fields of media, communication and development.

 

The first day of the workshop was streamed and the videos can be watched here:

Opening session including welcome words by Prof Levi Obonyo and Prof Susanne Fengler

 

Opening session continued including panel discussion with Monica Ndungu (Nation Media Group) and Dr Njoki Chege (Media Inovation Ceter at Aga Khan University Nairobi)

 

Panel on “Critical Reflections on Media Development in Theory and Praxis” with Roja Zaitoonie (chair), Dr Emilly Maractho, Dr Ines Drefs and Josephine Ndunge

 

In the following two days, around 20 researchers, most of them doctoral candidates, presented their current research topics, which dealt with media development theory and praxis, media innovations and media economics, societal representation in the media, mis- and disinformation, journalism practices in Keya, and challenges for the media during the Covid-19 pandemic. The workshop also included a visit to the Nation Media Group (see picture on the right), one of Kenya’s leading media outlets producing TV, radio and print.

 

Dismantling “North-South dichotomies”

The exchange between scholars from Africa and Europe helped increase mutual understanding of different media realities, revealing both commonalities and disparities. One of the main conclusions was that a common understanding of media development is needed to move away from a “North-South dichotomy” to a global and needs-based approach on equal terms. Roja Zaitoonie, Dr. Ines Drefs and Stefan Wollnik (MEDAS 21) have organized the workshop in cooperation with Prof Levi Obonyo, Dr Evonne Kiptinness, Dr Kinya Mwithia, Jeremiah Nganda, Daniel Mule and Jeniffer Mutie (Daystar University). Tremendous support was also provided by Prof Susanne Fengler and Viviane Schönbächler (MEDAS 21).

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March 22, 2022

Call for Participation: Workshop “Current Challenges of Media Development in Sub-Saharan Africa - A Dialogue between Academics from the 'Global South' and the 'Global North”

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Quelle est l'importance des perspectives critiques du développement pour la recherche sur le développement des médias ? En tant que chercheur.e.s, comment pouvons-nous contribuer à surmonter les barrières linguistiques à travers la mobilité scientifique au sein du continent africain et entre l'Afrique et l'Europe ? Et comment pouvons-nous développer une meilleure compréhension de la manière dont les médias et les journalistes sont affectés par les conflits armés ? Ces questions et d'autres seront abordées dans la série d'ateliers "Current Challenges of Media Development in Sub-Saharan Africa - A Dialogue between Academics from the `Global South' and the `Global North'"

 

 

Des jeunes chercheur.e.s se donnent rendez-vous à Abidjan du 27 au 29 avril 2022 pour discuter des questions d'actualité en lien avec le développement des médias en temps de crises. Pour y participer, en présentiel ou en ligne, veuillez postuler jusqu'au 23 mars 2022. Des places limités de bourses de voyages sont disponibles. 

 

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How important are critical theories of development for research on media development cooperation? How can researchers themselves contribute to the overcoming of language and participation barriers within the African continent and between Africa and Europe? And how can we develop a better understanding of how journalism and the media are affected by social conflicts? These and other questions will be addressed in the workshop series "Current Challenges of Media Development in Sub-Saharan Africa - A Dialogue between Academics from the 'Global South' and the 'Global North'". 

 

 

Junior researchers are meeting in Abidjan from the 27th to 29th april 2022 to discuss questions related to media development in times of crises. In order to participate, online or in presence, please apply until the 23rd march 2022. There are a limited number of travel bursaries available.  

February 21, 2022

Stefan Wollnik concludes practice stay at KAS with Health Journalism Conference in Dakar

Group photo with all conferees (Source: KAS Media Africa)
Group photo with all conferees (Source: KAS Media Africa)

In January 2022, MEDAS 21 fellow Stefan Wollnik had the opportunity to participate in the “KAS Health Journalism Conference 2022 – Reporting in Covid times and beyond” in Senegal, which he helped to plan, organize and implement as part of his virtual practice stay at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation's media program (KAS Media Africa) based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The conference took place in the Senegalese capital Dakar from January 21 to 23 and had a specific focus on francophone Africa. Health journalism experts from 13 mainly African countries were present, including in particular journalists, scientists/medical professionals, and members of civil society (in the media). This event provided an opportunity for key stakeholders in the field of health journalism in Africa to exchange ideas and to network. The conference addressed different aspects of health journalism in Africa, including societal benefits of health journalism, related journalistic challenges, and opportunities to further promote and improve health journalism in Africa. It was rounded off with a short visit to the former slave island of Gorée which lies just off Dakar. There, the participants had the opportunity to learn more about the medical situation during the past years of the pandemic from employees of a public health care facility located on Gorée.

 The following is a brief summary of a few key findings that can be read at length in the official conference report:

 

Social benefits of health journalism during the pandemic

Compared to the crisis and health communication of governments, media reporting is not only informative, but above all explanatory. Health reporting has gained significantly in public standing as a result of the pandemic. Moreover, in relation to government institutions, the media have a monitoring function - especially during the pandemic (e.g., adequacy of Covid-19 measures, corruption). It is the task of the media to expose misinformation – but they can also be a source of misinformation themselves if they do not report health information accurately. 

Panel discussion at the KAS Health Journalism Conference (Source: KAS Media Africa)
Panel discussion at the KAS Health Journalism Conference (Source: KAS Media Africa)

Special challenges for health journalism: Communication problems and "forgotten health topics"

The participants agreed that health journalism needs to become more journalistic and accessible, especially by interpreting medical facts in an understandable way and by being critical towards the source of information they rely on. Besides, some conference participants talked about communication problems between journalists and scientists: On the one hand, journalists often accuse medical scientists or medical professionals for not communicating their research to the media in an understandable way. On the other hand, scientists and medical professionals regularly complain about the lack of accuracy in journalistic reporting. To overcome these issues, both sides should try to develop an understanding of each other's situation and of their specific working routines and constraints. For this reason, there could be more training in the form of media trainings for scientists or medical professionals as well as seminars for journalists, for instance, to teach basic medical terminology.

     

Another challenge for health journalism is reporting on issues other than infectious diseases. Many health topics are often not covered by the media due to lack of resources and societal reservations. These forgotten health topics in African media during and after the pandemic include, for example, noncommunicable diseases like mental health disorders. According to some participants, mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression are typically associated with religious superstition or witchcraft and are rarely discussed in public in some African societies (e.g., Burundi and the Central African Republic). Media coverage of mental illness could go a long way toward breaking down prejudices and religious beliefs about mental illness that are deeply rooted in some African societies.

 

How to support health journalism in Africa?

In terms of journalism training, the participants highlighted the importance of academic or theoretical training for journalists to acquire basic knowledge. However, opportunities for aspiring journalists to gain practical experience were cited as even more important. Therefore, mentoring programs were mentioned to familiarize journalists with the professional field. Inviting lecturers to universities or other education and training institutions for journalists was also seen as a suitable way to combine education and practice in health reporting.

 

Another important finding in this context is that due to the difficult financial situation of African media houses, there are very limited opportunities for specialized journalists in African labor markets, especially in the case of health journalism. The often very poor financial situation of African media houses before and during the Covid-19 pandemic can easily lead to dependencies on philanthropic organizations. Such dependency relationships can affect the media coverage of media houses: Some donations are explicitly tied to very specific health topics. Moreover, the media are reluctant to report on issues that affect their funders. According to some conferees, however, media houses with a strong sense of self-confidence and a strong negotiating position through other sources of revenue have a better chance of asserting their independence. Therefore, media houses should focus on diversifying their funds by tapping multiple funding sources. Subscriptions and paywalls, advertising, support from government programs, and innovative funding models such as special membership models were discussed as possible funding alternatives. In addition, editors should also start thinking in an entrepreneurial manner and find ways to contribute to the financing of their reporting.

 

The future of health journalism in Africa

With regard to the future of health journalism in Africa, the observations of the conference participants indicate that health journalism has already received more attention or prestige in African societies as a result of the pandemic. The activities of many NGOs in promoting journalistic coverage in the context of Covid-19 also suggest that health journalism, particularly in Africa, could still benefit from the crisis in the future. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether this is also true for other health journalism topics, such as mental health disorders. Overall, as the conference report concluded, the future of health journalism in Africa – as well as all other journalistic fields – is closely linked to the situation of media systems and labor markets for media professionals in general. 

 

A successful practice stay with KAS Media Africa 

The cooperation with KAS Media Africa and the participation in the conference was a very valuable experience for Stefan Wollnik. Not only did it give him the opportunity to learn more about planning and organizing conferences, but also the chance to exchange ideas with experts in health journalism on site. He was also able to present and discuss parts of his PhD research on the social importance of health journalism in Africa.

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February 15, 2022

Call for Participation: Workshop “Current Challenges in Media Development”

Please find below the call for participation for the 3-day workshop “Current Challenges in Media Development”, which will take place on-site at Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya, 23 – 25 March 2022.

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The workshop is jointly organized by the School of Communication at Daystar University in Nairobi (Kenya) and the Post Graduate Programme “MEDAS 21” at the Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism in Dortmund (Germany). It addresses (junior) researchers and PhD students in the fields of media, communication and development from African and European universities who are dedicated to media development.
Early application is encouraged. The final application deadline is 27 February 2022. The selection process will take place on a rolling basis and will be completed by 2 March 2022. A limited number of scholarships, which cover travel and accommodation, may be provided for successful international applicants.

For any questions, please contact: Roja Zaitoonie (roja.zaitoonie@ruhr-uni-bochum.de) and Evonne Kiptinness (emwangale@daystar.ac.ke).

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December 21, 2021

3 Questions to Fabíola Ortiz dos Santos about field work experience in CAR

An eagerly awaited field trip to study the lived experiences of Central African journalists: This September, MEDAS 21 Fellow Fabíola Ortiz was finally able to conduct her field research with radio stations in Bangui. Upon her return, we asked her to share some of her experiences: 

Fabíola, you couldn't enter the Central African Republic (CAR) for a long time because of the German travel restrictions due to Corona. When you were able to enter the country, everything happened very quickly. How did you prepare yourself right before?

Since I started my PhD project, late 2018, I have long wished to travel to Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic (CAR), to conduct my on-site field research. But since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the closing of the world borders in 2020, it was impossible to organise any fieldtrip. By August 2021, the German Federal Foreign Office had revisited the list of risk countries for the Covid, and being remote and hard to reach, CAR was not portrayed as a risk to the new coronavirus, neither of variant concern. It was then the window of opportunity that opened and that I did not wish to miss. 

 

Three weeks was the time that I had to prepare for what would be one of the most paramount, richest and decisive experience I was about to have so far – both professionally and personally. During the month of August, right after the summer break, I bought the flight tickets, insurances and got the last vaccines and the malaria prophylaxis. I also contacted key partners in Bangui to announce my probable trip in September, sought what would be important to take with me in my backpack – medicine, first aid kit, accessories, devices for research, proper garments for rainy season and for humid high temperature weather –, and prepared logistics such as a driver and accommodation. But the most delicate part of the preparation was even about to come: to design and adjust my calendar of research activities to a highly volatile context. That meant: If CAR was suddenly declared a risk area during my field work, my trip would have to be cancelled and I would have to return home right away. This factor created an enormous sense of uncertainty as Germany kept on revising its list of risk countries on a weekly basis.

 

With the information that the trip might suddenly be interrupted on any occasion and the extreme difficulty to look ahead in time, my field trip had to be planned considering various scenarios and possibilities. I had envisioned that the ideal research stay would last for almost three months, from early September to late November 2021. I then prepared a plan of contingency considering three types of scenarios: an immediate abrupt scenario that I would have only one week in Bangui; a short scenario of one month; and a longer and ideal one which appeared to be very optimistic at that moment. And off I went, equipped with operational strategies, emotionally loaded and carrying a great deal of expectations, to my research adventure in the heart of the African continent. My goal: to learn about the work of radio stations I have been following for years now and, above all, the lived experiences of Central African journalists and how they navigate in a context of conflict and peacebuilding. 

During your research trip you met many people with different social backgrounds and stories. You also moved in many social circles. How did you perceive your role as an independent researcher?

Indeed, I was luckily able to circulate through various layers of the Central African society. For internationals, I should say, it is neither evident nor easy to access certain spaces, and this is mainly due to safety reasons. Many “expats” working in international organisations are subjected to several constraints for circulating in town and are barely allowed to leave their bases or the considered safe zones.

 

As an independent researcher, I had the freedom – and all the responsibility of assessing the risk that it entails – to circulate and visit localities that gave me important insights of the functioning of the society. In many of these occasions, I was accompanied by members of community radios or journalists that not only knew these environments in detail, but who also introduced me to social codes and cultural-historical aspects of these spaces. One important detail was that I was hosted by a Brazilian lady who has been residing in Bangui for many years. We developed a deep relationship of affection and complicity. She introduced me to several rites and elements of the Central African society. It was so generous of her to share so much knowledge with me. These kinds of relationships and memories I will carry with me for life.

 

I felt I had the privilege of enjoying a certain freedom to navigate and that my position, as independent as I could be, favoured forging new contacts and accessing spaces that I had not thought of before. One example was when I had the opportunity to visit a neighbourhood called PK-5 or “Kilometre 5”, a neighbourhood formed mostly of Muslims and known as the commercial hub of the capital. This neighbourhood is divided into clans or ethnic groups, the Haousa, Fulani, Chadians, Sudanese etc. The PK-5 was the scenario that marked the beginning of major crises in the country, as in 2013. And today, despite the disarmament efforts of the government and the UN, many armed individuals and former leaders of the Séléka rebellion still take refuge. On November 1st, day of all saints and a national holiday, I visited this neighbourhood. I was accompanied by the director of the community radio Sewa, meaning “family” in the language Sango. Radio Sewa is located at the entrance of the neighbourhood, its location is emblematic, on the “imaginary border” between Pk-5 and the Castors neighbourhood where in times of crisis Muslims live entrenched on one side and Christians on the other, unable to move along the road or cross from one side to the other. An important part of my research is to understand how journalists worked and how they managed to do journalism at the time of the crisis in 2013 and 2014 when the tensions in the country were increasingly high just like the levels of atrocity. That was a time when it was unsafe and difficult to move around the city and do any kind of journalistic coverage. It was extremely emblematic for me to be able to circulate through the streets of Pk-5 some years after the crisis and being received and welcomed by Radio Sewa, and its diverse team of multicultural presenters and reporters.

What was a turning point or critical moment during your trip that stayed in your memory?

I believe I had quite some turning points throughout my field research. One of the moments that marked me personally and emotionally was when I learned of the death of one journalist who was part of the AFC team, the Fact Checkers Association. Salwa Salle, a journalist and mother, from the northern town N’délé bordering Tchad, was somebody who discovered herself in journalism and in fact checking. A brilliant woman! We had been in touch remotely for almost two years. She had been one of the first people I contacted to announce that I was heading to Bangui and that we could finally meet in person. It was a joy when we saw each other in September at the Internews office in Bangui. Two weeks before she went to hospital, we had met to plan strategies for the future of AFC. It was Thursday November 11 when we learnt about her passing. We had just submitted a project that I had helped set up with the AFC coordinator, Rocard Maleyo, for the Francophone organisation. She would be one of the key persons to work on the project.

 

It was a hard, a very hard moment. Sad for all her friends and family. For security reasons, I couldn't be present at her funeral. This is a moment that I carry with me in my memory and in my heart. Social injustices are so great and they create huge gaps in the society. Social injustices are painful and can mean life or death for many. Above all, I witnessed a huge level of resilience of the team of the fact checkers. I dare also to say that I was overall impressed by the levels of resilience of the Central Africans. Despite all the scarcity of resources, the hardships of daily life, this is a society that survives and resists to exist.

 

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December 17, 2021

MEDAS 21 receives grant for doctoral workshops in Kenya and Burkina Faso

Together with project partners from Kenya and Burkina Faso, MEDAS 21 raises around 50,000€ from the Volkswagen Foundation’s “Knowledge for Tomorrow” funding initiative.

What relevance do critical perspectives on development theories have for media development research? How can researchers themselves contribute to overcoming language and participation barriers within the African continent and between Africa and Europe? And how can we develop a better understanding of how journalism and the media are affected by social conflicts? These and other questions will be addressed in the workshop series “Current Challenges of Media Development in Sub-Saharan Africa – A Dialogue between Academics from the ‘Global South’ and the ‘Global North’”. 

MEDAS 21 members Roja Zaitoonie, Viviane Schönbächler and Dr. Ines Drefs in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Levi Obonyo from Daystar University in Nairobi (Kenya) and Dr. Lassané Yaméogo from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) have successfully applied for funding from the Volkswagen Foundation. Thanks to a generous grant from their funding line “Knowledge for Tomorrow – Cooperative Research Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa”, they are planning a total of three workshops in spring 2022: Two on-site workshops, one in Nairobi and one in Ouagadougou, followed by an online workshop in which all participants come together digitally. Up to 40 (early career) researchers and students from different universities in Kenya, Burkina Faso, Germany and other African and European countries will be able to attend each on-site workshop. Researchers from the “Global South” and the “Global North” will thus have the opportunity to share their knowledge and experience, learn from each other and build joint networks. The aim is to improve research on media development cooperation towards a more equitable and sustainable practice.

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The role of trust in media development partnerships: MEDAS 21 Postdoc Ines Drefs presents at FoME Symposium 2021

How important is trust to local partners in media development partnerships? And what difference does trust make when it comes to dealing with problems in media development partnerships? MEDAS 21 Postdoc Ines Drefs is tackling these questions in her recent study and presented preliminary results at the FoME Symposium 2021. This year, the annual event of „Forum Medien und Entwicklung“ (FoME) took place in Berlin from Nov 18-19 and was themed “Believe it or Not! Enquiries about TRUST in media (assistance)”. As part of a panel asking for “The role for trust in international media support collaboration”, Drefs shared first insights from an online survey and interviews with local partners of international media development organizations. 

Trust in their competence is most important to local media development actors 

The survey revealed that it was most important to the local partners to be granted trust in their competences. While contractual trust and goodwill trust were rated somewhat lower, these were also deemed quite important. Interestingly, no major discrepancies showed up between how local actors rated these types of trust and how they perceived their international partners’ priorities in this respect.

 

 

A trustful partnership generally seems to make open communication between partners more likely when dealing with problems. Yet, in the face of high pressures to fulfil bureaucratic requirements local media development actors may also consider other strategies: While faking reports or even leaving a partnership was not deemed very likely, these strategies did represent a last resort. 

 

A video of the session is available here:

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November 24, 2021

How to move beyond established practices: Impressions from the Autumn School “Disrupted Ethnography”

Due to the ongoing pandemic, ethnographic researchers are facing a special challenge: closed borders and travel bans are disruptions we have to deal with. But there are also other disruptions when doing research in living contexts that are different from one’s own. They raise questions such as: How to build trust, how to tell other people’s stories, how to unpack concepts and biases we have in our minds and how to report from within? 

 

From October 20-21, academics, journalists and activists – who have comparable ways and challenges of working in a field – came together to tackle these questions as part of the Autumn School on “Disrupted Ethnography” at the Ruhr-University Bochum. The hybrid event was organized by MEDAS 21 fellow Mira Keßler and her colleagues Sarah Rüller and Konstantin Aal from University of Siegen. Mira had been awarded with financial support of nearly 10,000 Euro by Ruhr University Bochum Research School’s funding scheme “PR.INT Event” [DFG GSC 98/3] to conduct the Autumn School. 

Here’s Mira Keßler’s report of the event: 

 

“The fact that we offered the Autumn School hybrid was already a step that allowed us to grow beyond ourselves. “Disrupted Ethnography” had thus already been a question in organizing the autumn school, namely how we could overcome the hurdle of travel restrictions and country borders (be it because of Covid or lack of sufficient funds). The excitement of organizing a hybrid event paid off. We were able to exchange ideas on our laptops with colleagues from all corners of the world - such as Turkey, India, Palestine, Morocco and the USA.

 

During the actual event, we spent two days discussing the possibilities and limits of our ethnographic approaches based on our research projects and practical experiences. We learned from the experiences of the invited journalists and activists who, like us, have to explore certain fields and groups of people. The approach of comparing journalists and ethnographic researchers is not new and has already been discussed by the social anthropologist Ulf Hannerz. According to him, they are "neighboring groups engaged in a somehow parallel pursuit." In exchanges with Jignesh Patel (India), Ramyata Limbu (Nepal), Mariam Barghouti (Palestine) and Mosa'ab Elshamy (Morocco), we as early-career scholars were able to look beyond our academic book covers.

 

Jignesh Patel, a fact-checker and media & information literacy trainer from India, exchanged with the Phd students and postdocs on how they can access the field and build trust with distant sources remotely. This is challenging when they must contact researched persons, potential research assistants or gatekeepers via text message, video chat or telephone. Researching in and with the help of digital space is also a topic of virtual ethnography - also called digital ethnography, netnography, webnography or cyberethnography. For this type of remote field access, the group discussed the need to build networks, work collaboratively, but also verify information. Trust plays a big role here as the energy of in-person interaction needs to be conveyed through remote work. Furthermore, it is important to understand the nuances of different languages or cultures. 

 

Ramyata Limbu from Nepal, Head of Operations of Panos South Asia (PSA), Director of the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival (kimff) and a journalist, exchanged views with the participants on different "perceptions of the world". The question of how to reflect on own perspectives and concepts was essential. Especially for countries and people from the so-called "global south" the outside view and attribution in films but also in research are difficult. This was also the case for the Nepalese anthropologist Dor Bahadur Bista, who, in his confrontation with Eurocentric research and perspectives on Nepal, called for a "Nepalese anthropology". The problems of unequal power of definition are also reflected in international "cooperation." As a media development worker in South Asia, Ramyata provided insights into the difficulties foreign (aid) workers have had in gaining access to Nepali communities due to a lack of knowledge of local values, traditions, and rules of conduct. As researchers from the "global south", some of the participants were also able to connect with their experiences of othering, discrimination, and disadvantage – a topic that has received far too little attention.

 

Mariam Barghouti, a Palestinian writer and researcher based in Ramallah, addressed ethical and normative issues of fieldwork and reporting in her workshop "Reporting from within - challenging objectivity under oppression". The participants sought to revise the concept of objectivity and the role of documentation in shaping, transforming, or reinforcing social communities. They tried to unpack the realities of populations under struggle where the lines of being objective become blurred. Due to the need to protect vulnerable groups while researching them, the role conception of fieldworkers can shift from "objective" reporting to an activist or mobilizing one. Furthermore, this also raises the question of the significance of emotions, which both reporters from crisis areas and researchers on, for example, injustice, racism, or power inequalities find difficult to put aside.

 

Mosa´ab Elshamy, a staff photographer for the Associated Press based in Morocco, is involved in daily news stories as well as in in-depth photography projects and social documentary work across the Middle East and North Africa. His workshop aimed at covering practices of photojournalism and the challenges it faces today. The question of the representation of the "researched", whether through images or language, also plays a role in ethnographic work. The participants discussed the ethical aspect of a continuously developing and divisive field. They talked about the process one has to go through as a photojournalist or ethnographer when working on stories – from researching a topic to establishing contact and executing a (photo) trip, while maintaining a coherent (visual) narrative. 

 

Dominic Boyer, Professor in anthropology at Rice University in the USA, unites two roles of being an academic but also practitioner as he is also a writer, filmmaker and podcaster. In his keynote speech, he spoke about his understanding and his experiences with ethnography in disrupted times. He gave suggestions how to answer the question what the intellectual challenges and creative opportunities of working in disrupted fields are. He reflected on his experience with ethnographic disruptions from his first anthropological work with former journalists from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the post-socialist “Wendezeit” (turning point after the fall of the wall) as well as from his contemporary research on climate change and “Energiewende” (energy revolution). In particular, he focused attention on the possibilities of intellectual and artistic collaboration between ethnographers and their partners in fieldwork and on the importance of diversifying ethnographic engagements across different media as a way of communicating anthropological insights within an extremely diverse and fast-paced mediascape.

 

The term "Wende" (turning point) aptly summarizes the contents of the discussions in all workshops of the Autumn School. The participants worked together on proposals for solutions that they will take with them on the further path of their research. These include turning to critical (self-)reflection, establishing an equal footing of all participants and participatory approaches, using creative ways to present results and combining methods, as well as considering (also own) emotions and humanity. Concepts that are not yet very common in the academic field.” 

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November 12, 2021

Johanna Mack and Roja Zaitoonie contribute to DW Akademie study on Covid-19’s impact on global media freedom

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected media worldwide? And what can international media development do to support them in confronting this crisis as well as making them more resilient for future challenges? These questions are examined by the study “Coronavirus pandemic: Impacts on global media freedom” (Original title in German: “Coronavirus-Pandemie: Auswirkungen auf die Medienfreiheit in globaler Perspektive”), recently published by Deutsche Welle Akademie. It is the result of joint efforts from DW Akademie’s Alexander Matschke and Dennis Reineck as all as MEDAS21 Fellows Johanna Mack and Roja Zaitoonie. The co-authors analysed studies and reports on Covid-19’s effect on media landscapes and interviewed media experts from 12 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe.

 

The study is available at: https://www.dw.com/de/studie-pandemie-beeintr%C3%A4chtigt-medienfreiheit/a-58838402

 

It sheds light on various aspects that have been affected by the global crisis, especially:

  • Access to media and information
    The gap between people with and without access to trustworthy news has increased. While people have been hungrier for information than ever before, trends concerning trust in media were ambivalent.
  • Disinformation
    The World Health Organization (WHO) speaks of an “infodemic” of false information that accelerates the public health crisis. Fake news and disinformation circulate especially via online and social media and meet a lack of digital media literacy.
  • Media viability and journalists’ working conditions
    In many countries, ad markets have been severely affected. Media outlets hat to lay-off staff or cut salaries.
  • Media freedom and repressions against journalists
    Censorship, attacks against journalists and online surveillance increased during the pandemic. In some countries, existing or new laws have been used to curtail media freedom.

The study concludes with recommendations for donors and practitioners of media development on how to tackle these challenges, underlining the importance of free and sustainable media during global crises. They suggest a holistic approach that addresses the legal, economic, professional, digital and ethical resilience of media, as well as their relation to their audiences. 

 

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November 3, 2021

Michel Leroy presents at emma 2021

MEDAS21 fellow Michel Leroy has been selected to present at the 2021 conference of the European Media Management Association (emma), an international not-for-profit academic organisation founded in 2003. This hybrid-format conference started in presence in Jönköping, Sweden and online on 27 October. This year’s topic was "Media Management and Sustainability" with a rich program of presentations from prominent scholars in the field including Eli Noam from Columbia University and Robert Picard from Reuters Institute at Oxford University.

 

On 29 October, Michel was part of a panel on "Public interventions in media" with a presentation entitled "As seen from the Global South, media development is not just a sustaining challenge". He presented the first results of the meta-evaluation he is conducting in the framework of his research in relation to media management. In particular, he explained that media management remains barely mentioned in ex-post evaluations with a turning point between 2005 and 2007. He also noted that a reference to media management in an evaluation reduces the reluctance of its author to assess the sustainability of the project but mainly increases a depreciative focus at the same time.

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October 21, 2021

Fabíola Ortiz dos Santos about fact-checking platforms in Central Africa: “The goal is a responsible journalism”

MEDAS21 fellow Fabíola Ortiz dos Santos has been interviewed by Inga Dreyer from the science communication platform “Wissenschaftskommunikation.de” about her research findings. In the interview, Ortiz dos Santos gives an insight into the work of two fact-checking platforms she studied, Congo Check and Talato, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. What problems can be identified in terms of gathering information about Corona? How does the media system influence the news coverage? The whole interview can be found here.

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September 06, 2021

Michel Leroy, Mira Keßler and Ines Drefs present at ECREA 2021

Three members of MEDAS 21 will speak live at the 8th ECREA European Communication Conference which takes place online from Sep 6-9. Thematically, the ECREA Conference revolves around questions such as: What is the role of media and communication in the future? What kind of social, political and cultural futures are brought about and modelled by media and communication? What are the relationships between them and what are their main normative cornerstones? Numerous academics are invited to question and discuss together the relevance of communication studies in the face of the societal challenges of today and for generations to come. Michel Leroy, Mira Keßler and Ines Drefs will also participate and present their perspectives and research findings on international media development in the 21st century to registered participants:

 

Tuesday, September 7th, 09:00-10:30, Room 14

Michel Leroy: "In Future We Trust: Sustainability of community radio in developing countries and its interaction with professionalization"

 

Thursday, September 9th, 11:00-12:30, Room 8 

Mira Keßler: "Power and diversity in the “classroom”. A look at differences in journalism trainings as part of Media Development."

 

Thursday, September 9th, 15:00-16:30, Room 15

Ines Drefs: "International media development: Modelling the practices of funders, intermediary organisations and local partners based on organizational institutionalism"

 

Further information on the conference and the programme: https://www.ecrea2021.eu/

 

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July 27, 2021

Autumn School "Disrupted Ethnography" to be held in Bochum and online on October 20/21: Applications accepted until August 15

Last December, MEDAS 21 fellow Mira Keßler has been granted financial support of nearly 10,000€ for her autumn school on “Disrupted Ethnography”. She had successfully applied to Ruhr University Bochum Research School’s funding scheme “PR.INT Event” which is supported by Germany’s Excellence Initiative [DFG GSC 98/3].

Together with co-organizers Sarah Rüller and Konstantin Aal (both University of Siegen), Mira Keßler is pleased to announce and invite to their practical Autumn School titled „Disrupted Ethnography - Building Trust, Telling Stories, Unpacking Concepts and Reporting from Within". It will take place as a hybrid event on October 20/21, 2021, at the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany, and online.

 

Interested to take part? 

The organizers invite advanced Master students, doctoral and postdoctoral researchers as well as media practitioners, journalists, and activists who are interested to take part in the Autumn School to submit their application by August 15, 2021. Participation is free of charge. Detailed information about the application process can be found at: https://disrupted-ethnography.org/

 

The guiding questions for the event are: What can (academic) researchers and practitioners learn from one another when it comes to methodological challenges and obstacles in fieldwork? How do we move beyond practices that are established but do not serve us – as researchers, filmmakers, storytellers, activists, or journalists? 

 

Thinking out of the box

Together with selected participants Keßler, Rüller and Aal want to “think out of the box” by starting a dialogue between (future) researchers and media practitioners who have comparable ways of working ethnographically in a field, and who are confronted with similar challenges and levels of disruption, such as travel restrictions, gaining and maintaining field access, finding contacts and forging cooperation, as well as ethical questions of representation of social life and scenes of conflict and injustice.

 

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July 16, 2021

MEDAS 21 Fellows give a panel presentation at IAMCR 2021 on July 13

This year’s conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) was a hybrid event with plenary sessions in Nairobi and a variety of online sessions. One of the latter was a panel presentation successfully submitted by the MEDAS 21 Fellows to the working group on “Media Sector Development”. Here's the key information:

 

IAMCR PANEL PRESENTATION “Reconceptualizing the Field of Media Development”
Tuesday, July 13, 2021, 3.30 pm – 5 pm CEST

Preview of the papers (for IAMCR members and registrants): https://iamcr.org/node/15190

 

10-minute videos of each presentation are available here: https://www.medas21.net/resources/#videos

 

On the day of the live panel presentation, the MEDAS 21 Fellows highlighted connecting points as well as tensions between the research papers. Afterwards, they invited the audience to join the discussion, share ideas and connect. Discussant of the session was Dr Michael Yao Wodui Serwornoo from Cape Coast University, an expert on international journalism right at the pulse of the current debates.

 

About the panel

The MEDAS 21 Fellows combine their theoretical knowledge with their insights from the field – from West Africa to South Asia. In close cooperation with our practice partners, they have been observing current developments in the sector. The preliminary results point at important issues that are already and will in future concern media development practitioners. The contributions span timely concerns such as the challenges of Covid-19-reporting and the quest for sustainability, as well as critical perspectives on public communication in conflict settings, women’s participation in radio and the interactions between trainers and trainees in journalism trainings:

  • Michel Leroy (TU Dortmund): Sustainability through 20 years of media development evaluation
  • Viviane Schönbächler (RUB University) and Fabíola Ortiz dos Santos (University of Duisburg-Essen): A discussion of influencing factors in conflict journalism and implications for MediaDev
  • Roja Zaitoonie (RUB University ): PR or Media Development? The UN efforts on Media and Public Information in Peace Operations
  • Stefan Wollnik (University of Duisburg-Essen): The importance and challenges of COVID-19 pandemic health reporting in Uganda and South Africa
  • Mira Keßler (RUB University): Rethinking borders and boundaries: Differences in journalism trainings in media development
  • Chair: Johanna Mack, University of Duisburg-Essen

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June 17, 2021

Join our seminar series "Teaching Media Development“ this July!

We are pleased to announce a seminar series called „Teaching Media Development“ which focuses on innovative curricula, creative teaching techniques and networking opportunities for emerging scholars in the field of media development. University teaching is a crucial aspect when it comes to establishing media development as an academic field. Students from BA to PhD level constitute the upcoming generation of journalists, communication researchers or media policy advisers who will shape debates on how to develop media sectors all over the world – be it in media outlets, NGOs, ministries, law offices, research centers, or think tanks. Therefore, it is hugely important to spark students’ interest in questions of media and development and to qualify them to be able to conduct sound analyses thereof. The seminar series 
attempts to start a conversation about best practices of teaching media development at university level this July. In the long run, it is supposed to contribute to improved academic training of media development experts as professionals who are skilled at thoroughly considering and analyzing local circumstances and developing localized solutions.

 

Convenors: Ines Drefs, Mira Keßler, Michel Leroy 

Location: Zoom. Free and open to all.

 

This series is organized by MEDAS 21 and the IAMCR Media Sector Development Working Group
.

 

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SEMINAR 1 "Media development curricula from around the world“

Friday, July 2, 20201, 1.00-2.30 pm CEST (7.00-8.30 am New York; 7.00-8.30 pm Manila)

Registration: https://tu-dortmund.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_4vmnqzlDTDSKfDWEvTjW6Q

Outline: Efforts aimed at developing the media sector are being discussed in university classrooms all around the world. The related courses are sometimes offered by departments of journalism studies, sometimes by departments of communication and sometimes as part of development studies, oftentimes they are interdisciplinary. What are the implications of where media sector development sits within university structures? What skills do teachers of these courses need to impart to the students and how to make sure these can be localized? Is there a canon of essential literature for students learning about media sector development? If so, what is and what should be in there? These are the guiding questions of this session in which course leaders, university teachers and curators of literature collections present and discuss their approaches.

 

Confirmed speakers:

Ines Drefs (Host)

is Postdoc at the Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism and Program Manager of MEDAS 21. She works towards establishing media development as a research field at the intersection of academic theory and practical application.

Joya Chakraborty

is Professor and Head Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Tezpur University, India. Her research interests include exploring the social and cultural implications of ICTs and e-governance projects in India. She is also interested in understanding how different forms of communication and media technologies impact the empowerment and participation of marginalized communities including children and other vulnerable groups within development processes. Dr. Chakraborty has coordinated various projects in collaboration with UNICEF to advance the scope of C4D as a domain of academic training, research and professional competence in India. She is also the coordinator of the first two-year full time MA in Communication for Development (C4D) programme being offered by Tezpur University in India.

Christoph Dietz

is deputy managing director at the Catholic Media Council, a non-profit consultancy, for communications and media in the Global South, based in Aachen, Germany. Until 2018, he was coordinator of the Forum Media and Development, a network of 30 NGOs in German-speaking countries committed to international media development. Over the past 20 years, he has systematically collected literature on international media assistance, development communication and media landscapes in Africa, Latin America and Asia (currently 18,000 titles, https://camecolibrary.faust-web.de). In 2021, Mr Dietz will develop a new database in collaboration with the Institute for Communication and Media Studies at Leipzig University. Named "commbox.org", the database will provide practitioners easy access to grey literature and facilitate academic research.

Winston Mano

is a Reader and a member of the University of Westminster's top-rated Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI). He is also a Course Leader for the MA in Media and Development and the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of African Media Studies.

viola milton

is Professor at the Department of Communication Science at the University of South Africa where she teaches "Media Studies".  She has helped develop the "Media Studies" degree at University of Pretoria and is Executive Editor for the oldest South African journal in Communication Studies, entitled “Communicatio: South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research”. 

 

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SEMINAR 2 "Creating opportunities for the next generation: speed date with media development PhD students!“

Friday, July 9, 20201, 1.00-2.30 pm CEST (7.00-8.30 am New York; 7.00-8.30 pm Manila)

Registration: https://tu-dortmund.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUuf-qrqzosGdMF9_k17P-u4roZuVDCvlS3%20

Chair: Michel Leroy (MEDAS 21/Erich Brost Institute)

Outline: Twelve early-career researchers and PhD fellows from four different continents (Brazil, Burkina Faso, Colombia, France, Germany, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Philippines, DRC, USA) working on media development issues will participate in this first online speed-dating session. In a maximum of three minutes, they will present their research, their difficulties and the pressures they face. The aim of this session is to provide a framework for peer networking. It is an opportunity for young researchers from the "North" and the "South" to network and meet with practitioners and established researchers to express their concerns and difficulties such as (but not limited to) choosing a relevant topic, grant and funding issues, access to data and literature... An informal atmosphere will ensure equality, caring and respect. If you would like to attend the conference and participate in the conversation, register now!

More information on the session below at:
 https://www.medas21.net/news/#PhDspeeddate

 

Confirmed speakers:

Pragyaa Chandel (India)

She studies at Dublin City University, Ireland. Her PhD deals with “Digital Harassment of women journalists”, with India as a case study. The design of her research is inspired by theoretical framework of standpoint theory that draws its origin from feminist epistemology.

Simon Mangon

A PhD student at Sciences Po Aix-en-Provence, Southern France, he deals with media development in the Arab World after the so-called “Arab Spring” in 2011. His research aims at “analyzing ‘media dev’ from its making to its transformation. The case study of French support to Jordanian and Tunisian media”.

Sita Diallo Traore (Burkina Faso)

She is a PhD student at the Norbert-Zongo University in Koudougou, the country's third largest city in terms of population, in the central west. Her research addresses “the social representations of print journalists on sustainable development (SD) and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. 

Antonia Mielke Möglich (Germany)

She is an MA student, working on a thesis on Education for Sustainable Development and specifically on “the role of emotional competence training in achieving the SDGs” at the University of Leipzig, in the state of Saxony, Eastern Germany.

Daniel Fritz Silvallana (Philippines) 

A faculty at Davao del Norte State College in Panabo City (in the southern island of Mindanao), he aims to evaluate the media’s role when it comes to conflict dynamics in the Philippines."

Mayara da Costa e Silva (Brazil)

She is a PhD fellow at the University of Brasília, the federal capital. Her thesis in Social Communication tries to understand how the audiences who consume news on digital social networks perceive the practices of interactivity and participation.

Rousbeh Legatis (Colombia)

A German citizen, he studied at both Leibnitz University in Hannover (Germany, Vordiplom) and Free University (Freie Universität Berlin, FU; Diplom in Politikwissenschaften). Currently a doctoral candidate (MPhil) in Political Science at the University of London, his thesis is entitled “Peace and memory as interrelated social constructs in conflict transformation: the role of media and journalists as memory agents in dealing with the past processes (Colombia-Uganda)”

Angela Woodall (USA)

A Columbia Journalism School Communications PhD fellow, her focus is on “assessing platform governance of access through policy and API affordances”, API being software protocols that control third-party access to data. She expands on how platform governance links to larger cultural, political, economic, and ecological systems as it relates to media sector development.

Claudine Bonsoy Lunga (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Located at UCL in Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium), she is working on “Information and education in the age of social network: foundations of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in the DRC”.

   

Wisnique Panier (Haiti)

He was awarded the doctoral degree a few weeks ago at Laval University (Québec, Canada). His research focuses on “The transformations of the Haitian radio system from 1960 to 2020: Change and continuity”.

  

Olusegun Joel Titus (Nigeria)

He has spent his first year as a PhD fellow at the University of Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain. He is interested in “an eco-evolutionary exploration of audio platforms: The use of podcasts and new audio experiences in the activation of youth’s participation”.

 

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SEMINAR 3 "Creative techniques in classroom and applied training“

Friday, July 23, 20201, 1.00-2.30 pm CEST (7.00-8.30 am New York; 7.00-8.30 pm Manila)

Registration: https://tu-dortmund.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_bWxky1Q7QZqYSUWx1CqfLw

Outline: The training of media development experts must be ahead of its time to meet future challenges. This is not only about technical innovation, big data, and new ways of storytelling. It is also about a creative approach to educational content and teaching methods. Here it is important to note that media development is on the one hand based at a university level; on the other hand, it is based on practical trainings. For this reason, it is our aim to connect scholars with practitioners, if both hearts are not already in one chest. For both realms, creativity means innovation by using imagination and critical thinking. Breaking free from repetition and simple reproduction clears the way for new development and implementation approaches. It is important to us to bring different experts together, different in the sense of different living and working environments, different institutions, and different experiences with their own best practices. Our guiding questions for this multi-disciplinary panel on “creative teaching techniques” are: When and why do we need to be creative for teaching media development? How could this creativity look like?

 

Confirmed speakers:

Mira Keßler (Host)

holds an M.A. in Media Studies from Eberhard-Karls-University Tübingen. She also worked as a filmmaker, media educator and journalist. Her research interests include journalism training, research on differences, constructive approaches, teaching & education, (cross-cultural) communication, identity, postcolonialism, de-westernisation, ethnography and qualitative methods.

Linje Manyozo

is a student of the human condition, whose communication for development praxis involves working with participatory processes to empower people to co-design sustainable development interventions. Linje's transformative pedagogy and research actively intervene in the class contestation of power during the confusion, the violence, the deception and the bullshit that oftentimes govern the official production and integration of citizen voices in development policy formulation and implementation. His publishing portfolio includes books and articles on media, communication and development.

Saleh Masharqeh

is a lecturer at the Media Department of Birzeit University. He was a learning designer, and academic supervisor for “Birzeit Diploma for digital media” 2019-2021. He is also a trainer at the Media Development Center (BZU), with training topics such as: “news writing, media literacy, media ethics and codex, verification in new media, gender topics in journalism”. As a columnist and editor, he has 22-year experience at the Palestinian media. Saleh was a coordinator of research and policies unit at MDC: He supervised during 2014-2018 a series of media research and in his unit, he produced 12 research and 6 policy papers about contemporary media topics. As a coordinator of “media – education component” at the National Media initiative hosted by the MDC, 6 of his curricula for teaching media were adopted in many Palestinian Universities (2015-Now).

Martin Scott

is a Senior Lecturer in Media and International Development at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK. He is the author of 'Media and Development' (Zed Books 2014) and has written numerous journal articles on international journalism, politics and popular culture, celebrities and development and more. His current research is on international advocacy for media freedom.

Mary Mayers

is a British freelance consultant specialising in communication and media for development. Her core interest is radio for development in Africa. She has more than 20 years' experience of field-work in Africa and extensive experience in qualitative monitoring and evaluation and a doctorate in development communications. Mary provides a range of support to the media-development sector, specialising in radio in Africa, freedom of expression and media for good governance, ICTs and behaviour-change communications. She does evaluation studies, reviews, feasibility studies, training and facilitation, research, mentoring, writing and editing. She also occasionally publishes in academic journals and is available as a visiting speaker. 

Usha Raman

is Professor, Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad. Her academic interests span journalism pedagogy, cultural studies of science, health communication, children's media, feminist media studies, and digital cultures. Before joining the University, she headed the communications department at L V Prasad Eye Institute. In addition to several journal articles and book chapters, she writes regularly for the popular media on issues related to health, gender and education. She currently is a columnist for The Hindu, and edits a monthly magazine for school teachers, called Teacher Plus. Usha received her doctorate in mass communication from the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA, in 1996. She has been a visiting fellow at the University of Sydney (Australia), MIT (USA) and University of Bremen (Germany). As co-PI of the IDRC funded initiative FemLab.co, she is studying the gender dimensions of labour in a digital economy. She is currently serving as the Vice President of the International Association for Media and Communication Research.

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June 6, 2021

First speed-dating session with PhD students working on media development on July 9 - Register now!

This year, as part of the IAMCR pre-conference events, the media sector development working group and MEDAS21 invite 12 PhD students from 4 different continents (Brazil, Burkina Faso, Colombia, DRC, France, Germany, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Philippines, USA) and working on media development issues to an online “speed-dating session.” By offering emerging scholars the opportunity to present their research in a 3-minute-thesis format and get feedback from their peers and industry professionals, we hope to contribute to intensified exchange and networking and to develop practical coping mechanisms for any difficulties and pressures they face in their research. 
 The selection process is now over but it's time to register to attend the session!

 

Here‘s the key information:

Background

Within the relatively new working group focusing on efforts of shaping and developing media systems, early-career scholars sometimes feel isolated or feel that professional connections in the sector are difficult to establish. The aim of this session is to provide an opportunity for early-career scholars to build their networks. It is an opportunity for junior scholars from the “Global North“ and “South“ to meet with practitioners and senior researchers to voice their concerns and challenges such as (but not limited to) choosing a relevant topic, grants and funding issues, access to data and literature... An informal atmosphere will ensure equality, caring and respect.

 

Aims

What topics are under-researched in the field of media sector development today? What are the most pressing challenges for getting early-career researchers and professionals in the sector to work together? In a casual format similar to “speed dating”, postgraduate and doctoral students will be able to propose their answers to these questions and convey them to their peers by presenting their research (project) to the audience in 3 minutes maximum. These contributions will finally be taken up and discussed in a debate with representatives of academic institutions and media development organisations. Those who cannot attend the discussion can contribute to the debate by sending a poster (in PDF format) presenting their project and its issues, to be published on a dedicated webpage.

 

Important dates

  • May 20, 2021: Launch of the call for proposal
  • June 21, 2021: Deadline for submitting a proposal (3-minute live talk or a poster)
  • June 30, 2021: Notification of acceptance
  • July 9, 2021: Live event on Zoom

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May 18, 2021

Three questions to Johanna Mack about her practice stay at Deutsche Welle Akademie

Source: private

 

From September 2020 until March 2021, MEDAS 21 Fellow Johanna Mack spent six months working with her practice partner. In this interview, she talks about what she learned during this time and how it can help her for her doctoral project.

 

Johanna, during your practice stay at Deutsche Welle Akademie you worked from home due to the pandemic. What was the situation like for you?

Working from home has fundamentally changed a lot of things for me. I would have loved to be on site in Bonn or Berlin. But working remotely also had its advantages: I was able to get insights into many areas that I would not have had as much access to in an analogue way. The work processes have been redesigned and adapted to the new conditions. I took part in a "check-in meeting" every morning. I mostly worked with the team "Research and Evaluation", but I was also able to visit other teams within the department Policy and Learning and to get a taste of the work of the country teams, for example in the regions Asia, Africa and the Middle East/ North Africa. I also presented my doctoral project and got feedback from my team. All in all, the time at Deutsche Welle Akademie was great!

 

What new insights did you gain during this time about media systems in unstable contexts?

I do not have all the data together yet. But so far, I can say that it would be helpful to reflect on the fact that our understanding of what media systems are and how they should be, is contextualized. For example, theories about media systems tend to come from Western contexts. And this understanding of concepts shapes development efforts and vice versa. In a country like Guinea-Bissau, where many people cannot read and access to important digital infrastructure is lacking, communication channels outside the mass media are highly interesting. It is important to look at how people communicate. Griots, for example, are traditional storytellers who are the “memory” of an ethnic group. Considering such communication structures might offer new ideas of how various media systems might function and how they are influenced by different local and international variables.

 

What are your next plans with regard to your research?

To find out how media development actors describe media systems, I will contact quite a few media development organizations and ask them about how and for which purposes they analyse media landscapes. Because of the pandemic, it is difficult to plan my next fieldtrip. Luckily, I have had the chance to travel to my case study-country twice already, make some contacts and gain first insights. But I would like to check whether the ideas I developed at my desk at home are relevant on the spot. I also want to meet experts and players from the media landscape in Guinea-Bissau to learn more about the structure and history of the media system than books can tell me and to ask them how they define different aspects of their media system and concepts of journalism. What do they understand by professionalism, for example?

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May 12, 2021

Teaching conflict-sensitive journalism to young professionals

On May 12, 2021, Sigrun Rottmann was the special guest in our MEDAS21 lab meeting to discuss teaching conflict-sensitive journalism to young professionals. She offers a special seminar with journalism students at TU Dortmund and shared her experiences and challenges when approaching conflict reporting.

 

Journalists report on conflicts

“We need to talk about how journalists deal with conflict if we want to contribute to democracy,” she stressed during a 40-min lecture. It is often through quality conflict coverage that democracies are enhanced, she underlined when explaining what conflict-sensitive journalism is about.

 

“My aim is to provide journalists with skills to produce good quality journalism,” said Rottmann. Before becoming a lecturer at TU Dortmund in 2012, she had worked as a correspondent in Central America, as a journalism trainer and as a London-based BBC producer. According to her, the media construct reality and influence how the audience perceive and understand conflicts. Conflict coverage is the presentation, interpretation and evaluation of social and political conflicts – both those that involve or not physical violence. “It is not our responsibility to fuel or scandalize conflicts,” she added. But rather that it is the journalist’s responsibility to provide extensive information about conflicts so that the public can deal with them constructively.

 

The Power of words and frames

In her seminar, Rottmann also addresses preconceived ideas and social-psychological aspects (such as prejudices, stereotypes, hidden biases) that may affect the journalists’ coverage and how media professionals perceive conflicting issues.

“We look at different definitions of what is a conflict, escalation, and social change,” she detailed. In order to equip the journalists to have a better and more complex understanding of conflicts, she strives to convey tools used in conflict analysis – such as actor mapping. A close attention is paid to language and images, and to critically assess what kinds of frames are being used. “We look into the power of words and metaphors in war reporting. It is important for journalists to know what frames are, how they work, and that they can be used in a manipulating way,” she explained.

 

According to the guest speaker, many challenges remain, and more research is needed to inform best practices and foster multidisciplinary approaches to conflict-sensitive journalism. “We need to get more professional journalists and newsrooms interested.” The way forward would be to engage in cooperation on eye level with professionals from around the globe, concluded Rottman.

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May 10, 2021

Panel on UN media with contributions from MEDAS 21 and partners

On 20th April 2021, Roja Zaitoonie and Fabíola Ortiz dos Santos held a panel presentation titled „Assistance or Hinderance? Policies, Practices, Coordination and Impacts of Foreign Media Intervention in Conflict-Affected Societies,". Along with their partner Sacha Meuter of Fondation Hirondelle, as well as Jean-Claude Kayumba of the University of Sheffield and Kwame Poku of the United Nations Office for Rule of Law & Security Institutions they discussed this topic with senior scholars, organized as part of a series of events on UN media by the Hub for the Study of Hybrid Communication in Peacebuilding, hosted and led by the Centre for Freedom of the Media at the University of Sheffield.

 

Roja Zaitoonie presented her previous work on UN efforts on media and communication and their impact on peace processes and media developments. "Some of the peace operations have been criticized for not being fully successful. Media and communication played an important role at this point", said Roja Zaitoonie. Zaitoonie also highlighted the challenges and opportunities facing these operations.

 

Fabíola Ortiz shared her research on the development of the media sector in the Central African Republic and the role of international actors in the media. She recalled the Rwandan genocide and the time when media were being instrumentalized. Up until this day, this historical event has an impact on the media's core competency: to provide reliable information and facts. Ortiz cites fact checking as an example: "There is a need in every actor that they have their own way of fact checking, against disinformation."

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March 1, 2021

Three questions to Fabíola Ortiz about her remote cooperation with Internews in Central African Republic

MEDAS 21 Fellow Fabíola Ortiz dos Santos recently started to work with her practice partner - remotely. In this interview she tells us about her involvement in a training workshop on fact-checking techniques with journalists from Central Africa and her hopes of being able to meet them in person someday soon.   

Impressions from Bangui: The workshop on fact-checking techniques in progress

 

Fabíola, given the pandemic you have recently started to work remotely with your practice partner Internews. In what activities have you been involved so far?

I am very happy that Internews has become a partner of our MEDAS 21 doctoral program and that they have offered me the possibility to learn and get involved in some of their work in the Central African Republic. I have recently started engaging with their new association of fact-checkers (AFC- Association des Fact-checkers de Centrafrique) launched in January 2020. Amid its goals, the AFC wishes to contribute to fight against the dissemination of misinformation and rumours; train and educate media actors and young people on the fight against misinformation, mainly in the web environment but not limited to that. After a series of conversations and calls, the AFC coordinator Rocard Maleyo invited me to contribute to the training workshop on fact-checking techniques for a group of ten journalists based in Bangui and in the provinces – a mix of journalists from community radios, online press, newspapers and a journalism student of the University of Bangui. Within the five days of the theoretical part of the training mid-February, I contributed with two modules about phases of verification and on communicating with the audience by use of social media. I prepared the modules and the handouts based on verification guides published by UNESCO, BBC Afrique and Le Monde. I also drew insights from my recent book chapter about interviews with fact checkers in the DR Congo and Central African Republic and from a forthcoming paper on verification experiences on Covid-19 to be published soon in the journal Frontiers in Communication.

 

Holding a training session for journalists at a distance seems quite challenging. How did you manage?

It was challenging indeed! But very rewarding. I must acknowledge it has been quite an adventure both for me, for the AFC team and for the journalists in the training. I should, first of all, thank the team of Internews for the openness and for trusting in my work. I was a bit worried about how we would manage in terms of logistics due to the unstable internet connection. I was eager to have some interaction with the journalists! My suggestion was that I create slides on powerpoint and recorded on audio for each slide. My colleagues were able to download the presentation and, during the scheduled day and time, February 17 and 18, they showed it to the journalists, slide by slide playing the audio. A member of the AFC team was in charge of conducting the slide presentation and discussing or commenting the topics after my audio. During the sessions, Rocard Maleyo kept me informed in real time by sending photos and short videos to give me a sense of the environment and how the session was unfolding. So voilà, at the end, after some minutes for reflection and preparing the questions, we managed to have a real Skype call of around 20 minutes each day so that I could see all the faces of the journalists and they could see mine. They all had their opportunity to ask questions. Despite the challenging connection, we were able to fulfill our expectations to meet one another and exchange.

 

You are hopeful to be able to spend time in the field in Central African Republic at some point. What are you most excited about?

I am definitely confident that it will be possible to go to the capital Bangui. Although I acknowledge the challenges regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and the security concerns on the trail of the recent electoral process the country has gone through, I am positive it will be feasible to travel. I am very excited to meet the journalists in person! After many conversations and online remote exchanges for my research, I am eager to finally meet them and continue strengthening this relationship with the media practitioners and as well with the organisations working with media development projects. In the meantime, I am improving my French skills and learning some Sango, the other official language spoken in the country.

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February 19, 2021

Ubuntu Journalism and Decolonising News Media: What are the Implications for Media Development?

On February 19, 2021, Prof Colin Chasi (University of the Free State in Bloemfontein) and Prof Ylva Rodny-Gumede (University of Johannesburg) joined our monthly MEDAS21 meeting to discuss the concept of Ubuntu and how it could contribute to decolonizing news media and media development. The historical roots of Ubuntu, as Prof Chasi explained, stems from an African moral philosophy that raises the central question what it means to be human. Later, Ubuntu was interpreted more in a literal sense through the notion of “community” which had harmful consequences during colonial times and poses risks in today’s polarized societies. Therefore, Prof Chasi calls for a return to the early understanding what Ubuntu means, notably a concept that aims at uniting people and bringing the best out of each and everyone.

 

How can Ubuntu feed now into new forms of journalism or media development?
Prof Rodny-Gumede illustrated how Ubuntu can turn journalism away from confrontational and sensationalist practices, towards a more solution-oriented journalism based on mutual understanding and cooperation. When looking at journalism with Ubuntu in mind, several considerations emerge:

  • Journalism for the “public good”, but who is part of the “public” and who is excluded?
  • Truthfulness and honesty, two key African virtues, regaining importance in times of social media and fake news.
  • Listening, in the sense of empathic hearing what the other says and of showing sincere interest in the audiences and communities that the journalist is covering, researchers are investigating on and media development organizations are working with.
  • Ubuntu as a relational ethic, including the question of how we - journalists, researchers, media practitioners - relate to the people we are working with or reporting on.

The question of practical application is much more complex and depends not only on our own individual norms and values, but also on the structures and practices in our field that affect our behavior and thinking. Nonetheless, Ubuntu as a philosophical ground, can contribute to the decolonizing of news media, communication research and media development, particularly, when understanding Ubuntu in its earliest meaning, as a quest to become more human.

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February 2, 2021

“Developing the Media Sector in Peacebuilding Contexts”: Blog post by MEDAS 21 fellow Fabíola Ortiz for the Centre for Freedom of the Media

How could journalists be better equipped to report in a way that enhances the prospects of peacebuilding? MEDAS 21 fellow Fabíola Ortiz tackles this question in a blog post recently published on the website of University of Sheffield’s Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM). Her answer (inter alia): Fostering the media sector as a safe, inclusive and respectful discursive space could be crucial!

Fabíola is a member of the CFOM’s hub for the study of hybrid communication in peacebuilding. The hub brings together researchers who aim to understand the communicative architecture and infrastructure of sustainable peace and the ways in which representational and non-representational communication can contribute to sustainable peacebuilding.

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December 17, 2020

How can we enter a field despite barriers?

MEDAS 21 fellow Mira Keßler has been awarded with funding from the RUB Research School for conducting a workshop on “Disrupted Ethnography: Practical Perspectives & Access to the Field”.

Due to the ongoing pandemic and the resulting difficulties for traveling, ethnographic researchers are facing a special challenge: How can they get in contact with the people whose living environment and everyday lives they are investigating without being directly on site? Even apart from the current pandemic it can be tricky to conduct fieldwork due to closed borders, travel bans, and other obstacles in the research fields. So, how can researchers encounter a disrupted ethnography in general? How can they enter a field despite barriers - be it those of entries, cultures, languages, or ethics?

 

MEDAS 21 fellow Mira Keßler has just been granted financial support of nearly 10,000€ to address these very questions in a dedicated workshop. She successfully applied to Ruhr University Bochum Research School’s funding scheme “PR.INT Event” which is supported by Germany’s Excellence Initiative [DFG GSC 98/3]. Together with co-organizers Sarah Rüller and Konstantin Aal (University of Siegen), Mira Keßler plans to conduct the workshop “Disrupted Ethnography: Practical Perspectives & Access to the Field” in summer 2021.

 

According to the motto "thinking out of the box", the workshop organizers suggest starting a dialogue with practitioners who have comparable ways of working in a field, such as journalists and activists, and who are confronted with similar challenges, such as travel necessities, getting involved in new life settings, researching sources and informants with the requirement of gaining access to them, conducting interviews and gaining confidence in the interviewees, as well as questions of representation of them and their life worlds. The guiding question for this dialogue will be: What can practitioners and academics learn from each other? What new approaches can junior researchers develop that cannot be found in methodological manuals?

 

If you are interested in the workshop, please contact Mira Keßler.

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